No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Month: October, 2012

Welcome To Kumuwuki

The Regional Arts Australia Conference started fourteen years ago in Mount Gambier. A biennial conference, it has travelled to each state and is now back in South Australia, now at Goolwa, under the duel names of Kumuwuki / Big Wave.

Goolwa is the traditional home of the people of the Ngarrindjeri nation, extending along the lower Murray River, the western Fleurieu Peninsula, and the Coorong.  It was settled by white Australians as a river port collecting goods from upstream of the Murray.  Originally, it was connected to the seaside Port Elliot for boat trade, but the area was prone to shipwrecks, and the primary port moved down the coast to Victor Harbor.

Goolwa is now home to 6000 people, and, along with the coastal towns Port Elliot, Victor Harbor, and Middleton, it is a popular summer holiday destination.

Country Arts SA is currently in its third year of running the Regional Centre for Culture. Each year since 2010, a different regional town has been dubbed the Centre for Culture, and has seen an investment in upgrading infrastructure, increased touring, and support for work with and by local artists and communities. The Regional Arts Conference is being presented as a part of Goolwa’s Just Add Water, and sits as just a weekend in the yearlong program.

The conference opening plenary brought together the several hundred delegates, welcomed with a Welcome To Country and a Smoking Ceremony, asking the ancestors of everyone in this space to come and sit with us.

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Calling Adelaide’s Young and Emerging Arts Writers

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time travelling with my writing this past year, and somehow all of a sudden I have found my writing community existing in Melbourne and Sydney, while my artistic community exists in Adelaide. I think it’s time for us young professional arts writers and critics to really start talking.

Thanks to the support of the SA Writers Centre, I would like to extend this invitation:

Young and emerging arts writers and critics are invited to an informal discussion about arts writing and Adelaide. This meeting is designed for people who are pursuing a professional career in arts writing and/or criticism, and are interested in discussing and analysing the state of arts writing and the arts industry in South Australia, what it means to be a young professional arts writer, future directions for the craft, and the relationship and intersection of arts writers with artists.

The discussion will be at the SA Writers Centre, October 29 6:30pm. Please email me janehoward at with any inquires and with your RSVP. I really want this discussion to be free wheeling and driven by all in attendance, but I have some plans up my sleeve and I’d like those interested to get in on the ground floor. Look forward to having you.

Melbourne Fringe Review: Lessons With Luis – Luis Presents: Kidney Kingdom

“Hello, my name is Luis from Lessons With Luis”, the young man with the adorable smile, adorkable hair cut, love of cats, love of teaching, love of cats, love of comedy, love of cats, and amazing knitted jumper says, giving us a thumbs up.

We’re here today for Lessons With Luis – Luis Presents: Kidney Kingdom. Luis’s father needs a kidney operation, and to help raise money Luis has gone to where the money is: a fringe festival. Within this show about a show raising money for a kidney, we follow the story of Luis on his treacherous journey to Kidney Kingdom where kidney replacements can be found.

Luis is joined on stage by his father Len, in several supporting roles with the help of a music stand and script, and his silent brother Luelin, in charge of the props. If the show fails it’s all Luelin’s fault. Clearly.

Through this improbably hilarious show, we are treated to Luis’ most best jokes and improvisation, a lesson about anatomy, and journeys along the blue wooden road, on the train, through an ocean pursued by a shark, in conversation with a dinosaur, to the moon (which, shockingly, isn’t made out of cheese!), and, of course, past the gates of Kidney Kingdom.

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Melbourne Fringe Review: … him

This review contains minor spoilers.

He reads newspapers.

He hoards newspapers.

He re-enacts newspaper stories.

He re-creates the weather.

He does the crosswords.

He lives alone.

He lives alone, behind a locked door, in his room of newspapers. Newspapers pile on top of each other in stacks around the room. Important pages are stuck to the walls. Certain pages from certain sections have their place. Every day, the new paper is delivered through the slot in the door.

In this space, he finds joy. Great joy, sometimes. He reads every page of every paper every day. He knows what’s going on in the world. He’s just not quite part of it.

But in the room, sometimes there is loneliness. Sadness. Sometimes the news isn’t enough of a companion.

…. him from New Zealand artist Barnie Duncan is an uplifting, hilarious show which had the audience laughing uproariously, but then the work turns to find great pathos.

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Melbourne Fringe Review: Choir Girl

Choir politics, it seems, are a very big deal.

Which choir you’re in; who they accept and who they reject; their history; their venue; their accompanist; what section of the choir you are in; what food you bring; how much you rehearse; who gives whom a carpool.

Anything I’ve missed? Dozens of things, I’m sure.

Sarah Collins’ Choir Girl is a somewhat befuddling look into the world and the politics of choirs, of being an outsider, and of finding spaces for the lonely. A one-woman show, it is at its core, a small and simple story about Susan (alto) joining a new prestigious choir two bus trips away, while struggling to fit in amongst the other women of the choir and desperately fantasising about the accompanist.

This seemingly simple, one-woman show, though, is far from small. Joining Collins on the small stage in the Lithuanian Club Ballroom is an ensemble of fifteen women making up the choir: making this a small story epically told.

Collins’ Susan is earnest and heartwarming in all the right ways, while also being dark and incredulously manipulative. Incredibly dorkily invested in choir, slightly socially awkward, judgmental, and slightly lacking in empathy and social awareness, Collins nonetheless manages to pull of a character that, if we’re not exactly rooting for her, we’re still in some way cheering her on. This choral world – which to me is entirely foreign – becomes a refuge for the lonely Susan: a place where she can blend perfectly in as a good choir girl should, but you get the idea she feels she is so good at blending in she is probably the best at blending in, and so she is probably the best in all circumstances.

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Melbourne Fringe Review: More Intimate Than

Those of us who sit around the table tonight have been selected. We’ve been watched. Observed. Chosen because we are just the right balance of people who might – just might – remember. We might be able to be reminded. And when we’re reminded, when we remember, we might – just might – help someone else remember.

In a street-front gallery on Brunswick St sits a little house built of sheets. Solid sheets and lace sheets drape over the long dining table, windows quilted into the fabric. As we enter the gallery and wait to enter the house, through the curtains we watch as a woman, Punzel (Laura Jane Emes), is in the house setting the table: counting and recounting plates, adjusting their alignment although they remain always crooked. There is a slight air of discomfort as we wait: has the show begun yet? Should I be looking through into the space? Is it okay to speak?

When all of the guests have arrived, however, we are invited into the space and directed to a take a seat. There is a seat reserved for Punzel’s mother, and a seat reserved for Punzel’s father, while the rest of the seats reserved for us.

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Crack Theatre Festival (This Is Not Art)

Three hours on a train up from Sydney are some really wonderful beaches. On the October long weekend there is also an arts festival. But, let’s be honest, mainly there are beaches.

I was asked to come up to the Crack Theatre Festival with This Is Not Art to talk on a panel about blogging and criticism. Normally when I got to a festival I do everything and drive myself insane and to the point of exhaustion. However, TINA found itself at the end of several exhausting months and at the beginning of a month of festival related travel, so I decided to take it slow.

How slow? In four days I went to: seven shows, one walking tour, two launches, one closing party, one workshop, four panels (plus the one I was on), and one rooftop market.


But it still, somehow, felt nice and slow. I spent time walking around Newcastle and its beaches, I went to the museum, I had long breakfasts and long lunches and long barbeques.

To Quota or Not To Quota was perhaps the healthiest panel on representation of women and culturally diverse backgrounds in theatre I’ve been to. Maybe because Crack is such a youth-oriented festival many of the artists in attendance have only just started to come into their professional practice, and they have come into a world where the conversation – and the numbers – about women in theatre in particular have been at the forefront.

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Review: The Sea Project

Bob (Iain Sinclair) is a carpenter. He lives by himself, simply, near the sea. One day he finds Eva (Meredith Penman) washed up on the shore. She speaks with an accent; her memory and a finger are missing, no clue to where they went. Bob takes Eva back to his house. He sits her at his table, he gives her tea, he tries to be the best man he can be in this situation.

Eva stays, trying to piece things together. She friends a boy (Travis Cardona) on the beach, who collects things others have lost: music, shoes. She waits for Bob when he goes to work; she thinks of a future they could have together. Turning up at the house is Maciek (Justin Cotta). He, too, came from somewhere via the sea, he too speaks with an accent. He tells Eva stories of who she was, where she came from. Eva remembers, but only the edges. Small stories, the notes of a song that fill her voice.

In the seaside house, the three must negotiate their new relationships and their old histories.

Beautifully measured in all regards, in The Sea Project it seems at first as if writer Elise Hearst and director Paige Rattray are letting us peak in on a corner of the world which we exist in. As we move through the play, however, we watch as the boundaries we expect – the boundaries that we know bounder our lives – shift out, or slightly to the side.

The Sea Project is about many things in this world which are big: wars and the lives, loves, and memories lost; defining yourself and your place; the lines between the real and imagined. But the story Hearst tells us is of the small, contained. To write about it seems to almost give it more weight than the production itself gives it: in the end, despite all the journeys we take through the show, it feels like we’ve just had a glance at nothing more than the beautiful strands of a new relationship.

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